This Day in Geek History: December 3
Galileo Galilei perfects his telescope.
Oberlin College in Ohio becomes the first coed institution of higher learning in the United States, with fifteen women and twenty-nine men enrolled.
Dr. Herman Hollerith incorporates the Tabulating Machine Company, the predecessor of the later International Business Machines (IBM), to manufacture and sell the sorting machine he had invented. The corporation’s main offices are in Georgetown, Washington.
The Jovian moon Himalia is discovered by Charles Dillon Perrine at California’s Lick Observatory.
Neon lights are first used publicly at the Paris Auto Show.
The first successful Technicolor film, The Toll of the Sea, is released to theaters in New York City.
The Dandy, the world’s longest-running comic, is first published. While the Dandy is in no way, shape, or form geeky, its unprecedented popularity greatly contributed to proliferation of comic strips in the early half of the century.
The point-contact transistor is invented by researchers John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain working under physicist William Bradford Shockley at Bell Laboratories. Transistors would go on to replace vacuum tubes and mark the beginning of the “second-generation” of computers. They were cheaper to construct, faster in their operation, and more energy efficient. The first computer to feature transistors would be MIT’s TX-0 in 1956.
The first television broadcast in Hawaii is transmitted.
Police arrest over eight hundred students at the University of California, Berkeley, in the course of a sit-in at the administration building in protest at the Regents’ decision to forbid protests on campus property. The event marks the beginning of the Free Speech Movement. It is also the largest mass arrest in U.S. history.
The Control Data Corporation (CDC) announces the CDC 7600 Supercomputer. Many will later consider it the first true supercomputer. The system is capable of performing calculations at a speed of thrity-six megaflops, and it is equipped with a small-core memory of 65,536 60-bit words and a a clock speed of twenty-seven nanoseconds. It contains one hundred twenty miles of hand wired connections and is freon cooled. Both the Model 7600 and its predecessor, the model 6600, were designed by Seymour Cray. Both systems, the 6600 and 7600 use the same software environment, making it a simple matter to upgrade to the 7600. Scientific and government institutions will primarily use the machine to execute large mathematical programs written in FORTRAN, using the FORTRAN 70 compiler the system supports. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be one of the more notable organizations to use the machine. There, it will be used design nuclear weapons. Price: US$5 million
The NASA spacecraft Pioneer 10 becomes the first probe to reach Jupiter, and the first probe to perform a fly-by of an outer planet. It was launched on March 3, 1972, and in 1983, it will become the first probe to leave the solar system. The spacecraft is equipped with an Intel 4004 microchip. In another twenty years and five billion miles from Earth, the probe and microchip will still be functioning. Visit the official NASA profile of the spacecraft.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) announces that the Data Processing Division (DPD) will be absorbed into the new IBM National Accounts Division (NAD) and IBM National Marketing Division, which will become part of the new Information Systems Group, effective January 1982. The National Account Division’s headquarters are established in DPD office building in White Plains, New York. The DPD has been responsible for the release of a number of ground-breaking computer systems, such systems as the IBM 650 and the IBM 7090.
The worst industrial accident in history occurs when methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaks from one of the storage tanks of a Union Carbide pesticide factory to kill thousands of people in Bhopal, India.
The 5th annual World of Commodore show is held, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, over four days.
Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) introduces the PlayStation video game console in Japan. The system features a 33 MHz 32-bit MIPS R3000A processor, a geometry coprocessor, 2MB RAM, 1MB VRAM, and a graphics resolution is 640×480 in 24-bit color. The system plays games stored on compact discs. It isn’t the first game system to do so, but it is the first commercially successful system to do so, thus heralding the end of the era of cartridge game system. Sony spent US$500 million developing the system, and its release comes just one week after the launch of the competing Sega Saturn. The system is the result of a breakdown of a business partnership between Sony and Nintendo to create a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Before the partnership came to fruition, Nintendo aborted development and partnered with Philips. However, Sony ran with the development and the PlayStation, the first video game system to sell over 100 million consoles, was the result. Within thirty days of the system’s release, Sony will sell more than three hundred thousand units. Within six months, over one million units will be sold. Visit the system’s official website. Code-name: Play Station X Price: ¥39,800 (US$399)
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